2013: the year to find a new job – if the economy will let you

A third of workers are eager to change jobs. But with unemployment still high at 7.8 percent and job growth tepid, a job switch will prove more difficult for some workers than others.

Steven Senne/AP/File
In this December file photo, an advertisement in the classified section of the Boston Herald newspaper calls attention to possible employment opportunities in Walpole, Mass. With the job market improving slowly but steadily – US employers added 155,000 jobs in December – many workers are eager to change jobs or even careers, new surveys show.

With America’s slow-growth economy looking stable, 2013 is shaping up to be the year that many workers look for a new job.

After years of slogging in their current positions, unable to move because of the lack of new openings, workers are eager for a new job – sometimes an entirely new career. If the job market continues on its current path, those who are aiming to work in growth industries should be able to make the jump. Those aiming to make a change in slow-growth industries will find it harder to make a switch, since unemployment is still high at 7.8 percent and overall employment growth remains tepid.

In December, the economy created 155,000 new jobs – the average job growth that has prevailed for more than two years, the US Department of Labor reported Friday.

Many Americans are eager to change jobs. In a new suvery of 1,000 workers, 38 percent are resolved to find a new or better job this year, according to Indeed.com, a job-search website. In a separate survey of 2,250 adults by Glassdoor, an online career-search company, 33 percent of workers say they will look for a new job this year if the economy doesn’t contract; more than half of those plan on looking in the next three months.

“There's a tremendous amount of pent up demand to change careers,” says Jim John, chief operating officer of Beyond.com, an online career network based in King of Prussia, Pa. “i'm looking at resumes from people who went to law school and are looking to get into marketing.” The challenge: Many workers have been stuck in the same industry long enough that their salaries have improved. So a career change often means a significant pay cut, he adds.

In some fast-growing industries, demand for workers is high enough that job entrants with experience can command good pay. For example: Health-care employment has grown nearly 11 percent since the Great Recession began in December 2007. Computer systems design has 15.4 percent more jobs; management and technical consulting jobs are up 16.6 percent.

One unknown variable is the continued wrangling over fiscal issues in Washington, which is having a selective impact on hiring. Mr. John’s company, Beyond.com, which hosts more than 3,000 career communities, saw a 27 percent decrease in job postings in December compared with November, much of that because of hesitancy to hire in uncertain times. “Industries that are doing reasonably well will continue to hire; the ones that are struggling with uncertainty that want to hire will hire one person instead of three…. It’s not because they don't need the people. It’s because they don’t trust the environment.”

Although Congress has resolved its differences over taxes, it has a two-month window to figure out what to do about spending and the debt ceiling. Once those fiscal issues are resolved, presumably early in the year, employment gains will be bigger, writes Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight, in a release. “We do think that the economy's fundamentals are gradually improving, and look for faster growth later in the year to produce an average monthly jobs gain of 170,000 for 2013."

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